17.06.2012 – A long overdue study update!

I cannot believe it, the end of this week marked the end of my second year of my PhD. I am now officially a third (and hopefully final) year PhD student. The great news is, we are running to plan. As you should be able to see from the Gantt chart above I have until December this year to finish my data collection. Thankfully, everything seems to be running pretty smoothly, as you can see in my updates below.

Pharmacy Student Study Update

Well the great news is that we have completed the first of the two planned studies with our pharmacy students at the University of Bath. I finally hit my target recruitment for study 1. It has taken me a good 9 months to get all the participants we needed, thankfully I completed the qualitative aspect months ago and all the data is ready and waiting to be analysed. So this week I am going to be looking at that as I have a week off from the Community Pharmacist study (more about that in the update below). In October when the students return, we will start the second study and hope that our recruitment is quicker this time round – with all that we have learnt from this first study about how to engage students in our research.

The students who have taken part in our first study have been fantastic and they have given me lots of ideas, and plans for future research. So a huge thank you to all of them for all their help. Finishing this first study was a real boost for my motivation – the end is now in sight and it is just the icing on the top of the cake that I met so many students on my way to this first target.

Community Pharmacist Study Update

Things are starting to move pretty quickly now which is exciting. We have around 20 pharmacists from a range of community pharmacy settings (supermarket, national chain, independent, as well as some lovely locum pharmacists) signed up and booked in to take part so we are already roughly 1/5 of our way to our minimum recruitment figures (min 104 participants – max 130 participants). The rest are slowly but surely coming in and we are starting to experience a snow-ball effect where the participants we have already met are recommending our project to their colleagues. I will take this opportunity to say thank you so much to those pharmacists who are recommending our study – we really appreciate your support. Unlike the pharmacy student participants, our community pharmacist participants need a little more notice to either organise locum cover, or find a day when they can come in, and so I have just begun to meet my first few participants in the last few weeks. So far so good, the testing is going well and our first few participants have reported that they enjoyed the study and see the applications of the theory underlying these studies and our plans for the future as important for their profession which is more than encouraging.

It has now been about six weeks since I sent out the first round of invitations to pharmacists to invite them to take part (before that we spent a few weeks contacting pharmacy organisations asking for their permission to carry out the research with their pharmacists). The standard protocol is to do three mail shots, so after this we have one more mail-shot to do (in about another 6 weeks time). I will also be following this mail-shot up with phone-calls to pharmacies over the coming weeks, to aid recruitment. Anyway, Jane and I spent almost 2 whole days preparing information packs for our second round of invitations to pharmacists to take part in the study. I am so grateful to Jane, like all lecturers she is stupidly busy, but she still finds time to help me out stuffing envelopes.

Key dates:

One of the big upcoming events in this project’s diary is our Project Management Group meeting which is next Monday 25th June, which I am both nervous and excited for. It’s like having a mini viva (viva: the oral exam which all PhD students have to pass to receive their PhD) every time we meet with our PMG. All the members are incredibly knowledgeable and very important in the Pharmacy world and so it is important to me that I can show them what a great job that Jane, Marjorie and I have been doing since we last met. In July we will submit our interim report to our funders so the meeting is in preparation for this.

One other little project…

As if I didn’t have enough to do this week, this is the week that our bathroom is being renovated. This is the first major thing we have done to our home and I am very nervous that there is something we haven’t considered or planned for. Purposefully, I have not planned to meet any participants this week, as I know that tomorrow when our bathroom is ripped out I am going to be a bag of nerves and won’t settle until it is all re-fitted and finished! A nervous researcher is not ideal especially when running experiments because the experimenter can consciously or unconsciously have a large effect on participants behaviour. I always aim to be calm, collected and approachable. If any of my family or friends are reading this last line I know they are now laughing because I am not well-known for being calm and collected, I am generally quite an excited, over-enthusiastic person!

I promise to be back with another update soon!

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Mention in the Pharmacy Business Magazine

Today our project (with a smiley picture of me) was mentioned in the Pharmacy Business Magazine. I am so excited that already there is a bit of a buzz around this project. Not only have we been mentioned in the pharmacy business magazine, but we’ve had lots of visitors to our website and even researchers from other disciplines at our University talking about the research and asking me questions. Hopefully when we have the results at the end of the year – it will be just as exciting. Meanwhile all this attention has spurred me into getting lots of content uploaded to this site – which is great as sometimes I do need a bit of time pressure to get me kick started into action. Especially when it is term time and there is lots of teaching assistant work to be done.

Keep coming back for more updates – I am sure there are going to be lots as I start contacting community pharmacies to see if their pharmacists would like to take part in our study!

P.s. I am writing this whilst a student participant is taking part in the study in one of our sound proofed booths – the study has been running so smoothly after we ironed out most of the glitches in the pilots study that I can multi-task and get things like this done in between each stage of the study. Needless to say I am starting to feel quite relaxed on the days I am testing participants (which is a relief, because during the pilot study I was a bag of nerves).

Recruitment update for pharmacy student study

This week I re-started the recruitment and testing for our pharmacy student study. I had to pause recruitment and testing for this study for the whole of December and January whilst the students were away for their Christmas holidays and then the exam period in the new year. So I was well and truly ready to get stuck back in to the data collection. I can’t wait till I’ve completed the first study so that we can run our analyses and see what is happening.

The good news is I made a very good start in this first week as I managed to test six students. I have got another 4 booked in this week and then a couple for the following week. However, frustratingly I need about another 20 people to sign up and I am struggling to get there. My posters, visits to lectures and 2 recruitment e-mails have only pulled in those 12 or so participants, I have one e-mail reminder left and then I am not sure what I am going to do next to get students participating in my study other than relying on the snowball effect from now on.

I now know I have chosen a difficult group to study and I am starting to understand why the researchers whose work I am trying to replicate and extend used psychology undergraduates, not pharmacy undergraduates. The advantage to using Psychology students for research is they have to take part in experiments to gain course credits – so you have a captive audience. When I did my psychology degree we all had to do 10hrs research participation every term for 3 years mostly taking part in post-grads research. So in total those postgrads got 90hrs of my time! For free! Pharmacy students dont have to take part in research and are not used to being invited to take part in research either. Plus pharmacy students have a huge work load (especially compared to psychology students) so it does not surprise me that I am struggling to get loads of volunteers.

However this study is important and just because a population is hard to reach/engage it doesn’t mean you should not involve them in research – in fact not to do so leads to biased research in any given area. So I will keep going! I have one last hope that this term I help teach on the health psychology module to my target participants and so maybe seeing me once a week for the next few months will help me keep my project in their minds and maybe they will eventually sign up.

Having had a mini rant I must also add that I have been so pleased to meet everyone who has taken part so far. They have all been lovely and enthusiastic and have had lots of helpful insights into the real world application of my research. More than that, having met them all I am super impressed with all these soon to be pharmacists that the University of Bath are producing. I am not saying this because it is the corporate line, I honestly can’t sing their praises enough when I compare myself to them at their age I had no clue how to act professionally and yet they are becoming true professionals already. Plus their knowledge on medicines is immense. It is very impressive.

I hope to bring you lots of positive recruitment updates over the next few weeks and fingers crossed I may even reach my targets soon.

P.s. I’ve updated my recruitment syringe on the homepage as I’ve now tested 30 participants in total!

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